Children who receive music instruction and have music-rich experiences benefit greatly in a variety of ways. Skills developed during music lessons can influence children’s cognitive abilities in completely unrelated subjects. Some of these include:
- Better listening skills and a greater ability to pay attention
- Language development and improved language-based reasoning
- The ability to plan, organize and complete tasks
- Strengthened memory
Despite all the extensive research demonstrating the beneficial effects of music education, it has been gradually disappearing from general curricula around the world, due mostly to competition with academic subjects as well as funding issues and school priorities. Jacksonville Country Day School, on the other hand, has been focused on expanding musical offerings and performance opportunities. A major reason for this is a strong commitment to specialist programs. And the understanding that music interconnects with everything inside and outside the classroom, contributing in a special way to the overall goal of every child reaching his or her unique potential.
When you walk into the spacious JCDS music room, aside from the array of instruments and the visually-impactful artwork, you are struck by the large, green mural-like wall banner with an unmistakable mission and mantra: “Music Ignites Your Whole Brain: Read, Listen, Perform, Move, Sing, Compose, Dance, Play Instruments.”
The Music Specialist team of Virginia Dickert (Grades 1-6), Anne Dix (Pre-K 3-Kindergarten) and Chrystal Staples (Band and Drumline), with a collective 90 years of music teaching experience, offers children a wide variety of exciting activities and innovative classes to develop their musical gifts.
Anne Dix, a 12-year JCDS veteran, summed it up this way: “Our program encourages and engages students in musical discovery through active learning across various channels and challenges with peers.” A clear reflection of this approach is the annual presentation of a musical production by all grade levels. These creative endeavors enable students to develop performance skills and also connect to covered curriculum areas such as global studies and literature, and other subject matter.
Standard music class activities follow the Orff and Kodaly Methods and include singing, speaking, movement, acting and playing instruments like recorders, drums, ukuleles and piano keyboards. Ear training and reading music, starting in Kindergarten, remain key facets of ongoing class work as does working on the “five voices” (whispering, talking, speaking, shouting, and singing).
Students are also encouraged to take private instruction (instruments and voice) in the outstanding after-school enrichment program. Many students also participate in enrichment performance groups (grades 3-6), including the JCDS Band, Drumline, and Jazzy J’s, which is an Orff ensemble.
JCDS is one of only a handful of private, elementary schools in the area that has a band. Chrystal Staples, the school’s “leader of the band” for over 10 years, keeps her group of 30 student-musicians focused on goals. “I enjoy working with our students, developing them into advanced musicians as they move into middle school and teaching them more than music, like discipline through rehearsals, teamwork, and respect.”
Virginia Dickert, music department mainstay of 23 years and “dean” of all things musical, heads another important enrichment performance group, the JCDS Chorus. “We recently sang the National Anthem before the Jacksonville Icemen’s opening face off in front of over 5,000 fans. These kinds of opportunities to perform on this scale instill pride, self-confidence and tremendous camaraderie which is so great for our kids.” These performance groups also entertain at community events such as the Holiday Program at the Jacksonville Airport and at local hospitals. They also participate annually in the Music USA Competition in Orlando and perform on campus at Character Education assemblies and athletic events.
It has been said that music is the universal language. Because, even without words, all types of music touch children’s head, heart, and body and leave them more alert and predisposed for greater learning for having responded. The JCDS Music Specialists eloquently spread the word every day and their students are definitely all ears!